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Beyond a big maintenance release in February and two later upgrades, IBM is planning a new release of Lotus Domino/Notes for 2004 that will act as a migration path to the NextGen architecture based on WebSphere and DB2. Meanwhile, the first two products in the NextGen family -- a lightweight e-mail system and a learning management offering -- are slated for release this year. Domino/Notes administrators won't be left stranded, though, IBM officials maintained.
In the intensely competitive ICE (integrated collaborative environment) market, Domino/Notes already holds the worldwide lead over Microsoft Exchange, according to numbers from IDG. "We have reasserted our dominance with R6," contended Dean Marsh, IBM's director of messaging solutions.
More than 1,000 companies are registered users of R6, the latest release, including giants like Campbells Soup, Air Canada and Deutsche Bank. Why, then, is IBM adding a second e-mail product?
"There shouldn't be any cannibalization," remarked Tim Kounadis, senior marketing manager for IBM Lotus Software. Notes will continue to be geared to "knowledge workers," while the new e-mail product will be aimed at "underserved or deskless workers" in places such as retail stores and the factory floor.
"These are users who have casual e-mail needs -- those who don't do a lot of calendaring and scheduling," added Marsh, during the annual Lotusphere show. "We can identify about 50 million seats."
Novell, the third place player in the ICE race with its GroupWise suite, also offers a lighter weight e-mail product. Novell's NetMail is used in academic environments such as the University of Kentucky, as well as in the corporate space.
Lotus's product, though, will compete not with Novell's NetMail but rather with SendMail and Critical Path's software, according to Marsh. As IBM sees it, some organizations will use Notes in conjunction with Lotus's as yet unnamed new product, which now goes by the working title "NextGen Mail."
NextGen Mail is slated to enter public beta on February 1, with general availability in April. Initially, the system will run on AIX and Microsoft Windows 2000. In a second release anticipated for the third quarter, Linux support will be added along with limited calendaring. Later this year, Lotus will spell out a strategy for adding instant messaging (IM) to the new mail product, Marsh said.
NextGen Mail will be managed mainly through the WebSphere Application Server Management Console. Administrators, though, will also be able to perform tasks such as user adds and changes through a choice of either Domino Administrator or Domino Web Administrator. "You'll be able to do look-ups from the last session through Domino Directory on LDAP," Kounadis added.
Domino/Notes Path to NextGen
In the Domino/Notes arena, Lotus will try to ease the transition for administrators by providing a gradual migration path, according to Kounadis. "Domino and Notes are a parallel path to NextGen. You won't have to 'rip and replace,'" he asserted.
Following a 6.01 maintenance release during the first two weeks of February, Lotus will produce R6.5 in the second half of this year and another release in the second half of 2004. The product pegged for 2004 will add DB2 support as an "alternative data source" to the long-standing NSF.
Many Domino/Notes customers wait until the first maintenance release before upgrading, Kounadis pointed out. Last October, Lotus released a SIP/SIMPLE gateway for crossplatform instant messaging that was originally planned for R6, which initially shipped in August. Along with several other features, the gateway was delayed because IBM didn't deem it ready to go out the door yet.
The February maintenance release contains a variety of bug fixes as well as the remaining capabilities that were initially left out of R6. These include the ability to read Notes encrypted from iNotes, iNotes server support on Linux, and a new feature called "single copy template."
Single copy template is supposed to lower disk space consumption when templates are copied between machines. Instead of a full copy of the template, a pointer is created, according to Kounadis.
The maintenance release also rounds out support for roaming users, he said. "The roaming user feature was 'in' R6, but we didn't officially support it yet. We told people they could try it out."
"Roaming user" lets end users log into their Notes desktops from any PC, without needing to have Notes ID software installed on their machines. The capability is targeted at companies with "hot desktops" -- where several end users share the same PC -- as well as at on-the-road workers. "All the user needs to do is type in the user ID and password. That's it."
Lotus Notes R6.5
In the subsequent R6.5, Lotus will add vLinux for server consolidation, full XMIME support through IMAP, and improved integration with Lotus Sametime and Microsoft Office.
Also planned for version 6.5 is client-side Linux support. "You'll be able to run iNotes in a Mozilla browser," according to Kounadis.
The new release targeted at 2004 will offer the option of DB2 support for several interrelated reasons. Chiefly, he said, DB2 will act as a "bridge to NextGen, through use of the same repository."
"Users' day-to-day inboxes won't change. Yet, you'll be able to leverage the power of DB2." DB2 offers greater scalability than NSF, according to Kounadis. "We can also do things with DB2 -- such as grouping and aggregating data -- that we can't do with NSF."
To spur ports of existing Notes applications to NextGen, Lotus has also unveiled a new development tool called Domino Toolkit for WebSphere Studio. Currently in beta, the toolkit is expected to be available with Lotus Domino Designer in the second quarter of this year. "It has the look and feel of Designer, yet it lets you render pages in J2EE," Kounadis said.
Lotus Learning Management System
Meanwhile, IBM's new Lotus Learning Management System is scheduled to ship in February. "We'll actually be the first NextGen product, because we'll be out before NextGen Mail," according to Andy Sadler, IBM director of e-learning.
The first edition of Learning Management System will be offered on AIX, Sun Solaris,Windows 2000, and Intel Linux platforms. Support will later be added for IBM OS/400 and Linux on zSeries. WebSphere will be embedded in the system, which will run with a choice of either DB2, Oracle 8, or SQL Server databases. Lotus is providing free upgrades from its earlier LearningSpace product.
Apart from its NextGen architecture, the new product will differ from LearningSpace by supporting additional kinds of learning beyond just e-learning -- such as software-based course catalogs -- and by working with third-party software complying with the ADLScorm specification.
"A lot of our customers have been using multiple educational software products in their various departments. Now, we're starting to see a movement among IT people to consolidate. No department wants to give up what they already have, however. So we needed to have a framework configurable to supporting many different products, as well as many different looks-and-feels," Sadler said.
Sametime Everyplace 3
Also at Lotusphere, Sametime Everyplace 3 was launched, expanding IM and presence awareness beyond devices like PocketPCs and Palms to the latest breed of cell phones. IBM has also signed a deal to integrate Sametime Everyplace with AT&T's cellular network, for a new service offering known as "AT&T Wireless Business Solutions for IBM."
"We also plan to start using WebSphere and DB2 on the back end (of Sametime Everyplace)," said Jeremy Dies, senior offerings manager, Advanced Collaboration, at IBM.
In Other News...
In the midst of all these changes for Lotus, ICE second-runner Microsoft has made news by purchasing PlaceWare, a leading Web conferencing company.
Elliot M. Gold, president of the TeleSpan market analyst firm, noted that Microsoft is widely expected to integrate PlaceWare into the next edition of Microsoft Exchange.
Microsoft already has a conferencing product called NetMeeting, which is based on technology originally built by Databeam. "NetMeeting, though, became used a lot by teenaged gamers," according to the analyst, who specializes in Web conferencing products.
Interestingly, Gold observed, Lotus ended up buying Databeam, and then used the acquired company's technology inside its Sametime client.